Mr. Jason Patera, President

Head of School

The Chicago Academy for the Arts

1010 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642-5414


Jason Patera is the Head of School at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, where he has served in various capacities for more than two decades.


A jazz pianist and drummer, Patera is an alum of Berklee College of Music. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for excellence in teaching, and was named a Golden Apple Leader of Distinction in 2018. In addition to LMAIS, Patera serves on the boards of Arts Schools Network and Live Grit Soars, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people in underserved communities build physical and emotional strength through sport.


An avid endurance athlete, Patera is the author of I Can Do Hard Things, or: How Much It Hurt to Run 100.6 Miles for Chicago Athlete Magazine. Inspired by Academy students, his TED talk Life at the Intersection of Excellence, Purpose, and Passion describes the power of rejecting mediocrity, defying our limits, dreaming audaciously, and loving the journey.

Ms. Margaret Steele, Vice President

Head of School

Sacred Heart Schools

6250 N. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60660


Ms. Steele became a teacher to accompany children as they navigate developmental stages and discover who they are as people and learners. She most loves those opportunities to connect individually with students, whether through a moment of laughter or a serious conversation.


Ms. Steele worked at Sacred Heart as a teacher and Primary School Head for 18 years then served as Head of School at Woodlands Academy for six years. She returned to Sacred Heart as Head of Schools in 2021.

Alex Sheridan, Secretary 

Director of Enrollment, Marketing, & Financial Aid

Lake Forest Country Day School

145 S. Green Bay Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045-3053


Alex Sheridan has served as Director of Enrollment, Marketing, & Financial Aid at Lake Forest Country Day School since 2018. An alumnus of independent schools, Alex’s career spans 15 years as an administrator, teacher, counselor, and coach at schools in New York and Chicago. Alex holds an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a graduate business degree from Quinnipiac University, in addition to participating in the ISACS Leadership Academy through the Kellogg Center for Nonprofit Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Casey Crnich, Treasurer

Executive Director

Hyde Park Day School

6254 S. Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637-2616


Casey Crnich has been Executive Director of Hyde Park Day School since 2011. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from Northern Illinois University, a Master’s Degree in Education from DePaul, and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University.

Fraser Coffeen

Administrative Director

Chicago Waldorf School

5200 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640


Fraser is the Administrative Director (co-Head of School) at Chicago Waldorf School, a PK-12 Waldorf day school in Chicago. He was previously a MS/HS Division Head and Assistant Head of School at Roycemore School (Evanston, IL), and Middle School Division Head and the Assistant Head of School for Academics and Auxiliary Programs at Canterbury School (Fort Wayne, IN). Education is a second career for Fraser, as he began working in non-profit arts administration including marketing and development work at Steppenwolf Theatre among others. He has previously served on boards for The Building Stage Theater and Three Rivers Musical Theater. Fraser holds a BA in English from Northwestern University and an MA in Teaching from National Louis University.

Lauren Collins

Director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement

North Shore Country Day

310 Green Bay Road
Winnetka, IL 60093-4094


Lauren Collins joined North Shore Country Day in 2020 after serving in local independent schools as both a Diversity Director and an administrator for the Early Childhood program.


She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Miami University and a Master Degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s

Liz Erlich

Director of Business Operations
Chicago Jewish Day School

3730 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-3604


Liz Erlich joined Chicago Jewish Day School as their Director of Finance in 2018. In her current role as Director of Business Operations, she now oversees all business-related activities for the school.


Prior to her role in the education field, Liz held various Finance and Accounting roles in the manufacturing, telecommunication, and hospitality industries.


Liz currently serves as Board Treasurer for The Kindness Connection, a local non-profit that provides services opportunities to youths in order to nurture and inspire kindness and empathy. She and her husband Seth reside in Northbrook and have three children.

Geordie Jones

Middle School Director

Rogers Park Montessori School

1800 W. Balmoral Avenue
Chicago IL 60640


Geordie has been working as an educator for over 20 years. Born and raised in Colorado, he attended the University of Denver where he majored in History and Russian Language and Literature. He moved to the Midwest for graduate school, receiving an M.A. in Russian history from Indiana University in Bloomington. Geordie began his teaching career while working as a visiting lecturer in the Gender Studies department at IU, teaching classes on feminism and LGBTQ+ history. During graduate school Geordie volunteered with younger students and found that he preferred working with that age group. After relocating to Chicago, he received his Montessori adolescent training through the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center and became one of the founding teachers of the middle school program at Rogers Park Montessori. His interest in social justice issues led him to serve on the inaugural teacher advisory board for Teaching Tolerance (now known as Learning For Justice), the educational arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Geordie has been teaching at Rogers Park Montessori for 18 years and became the Middle School Director in 2019. He lives in Rogers Park with his partner Nick and their dog. Outside of school, Geordie enjoys reading, music, and travel.

Michael Kennedy

Head of School

The Frances Xavier Warde School

751 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60654-3835


Michael Kennedy is in his sixth year as the Head of School at The Frances Xavier Warde School (FXW) in Chicago. FXW is an independent Catholic School serving 1000 students at the Old St. Patrick’s Campus and the Holy Name Cathedral Campus. Kennedy came to FXW after serving 11 years as the Headmaster of La Lumiere School in La Porte, IN.


Prior to that, he served in the Admissions Department at The Latin School of Chicago for seven years, four as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid. Kennedy earned his B.A. from Boston College and his M.A. from The University of Notre Dame and has served on the LMAIS Board for 6 years.

Amanda LePard

Director of Enrollment Management

The Chicago Academy for the Arts

1010 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642-5414


Amanda has served as a teacher and administrator in Chicago area schools for over 15 years. Prior to her role as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Roycemore School for 10 years, and now as the Director of Enrollment Management at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, she was a classroom teacher and professional dancer.  Having the unique opportunity to bring her experience as an educator and artist to a prestigious performing arts high school such as The Academy is a dream come true for her.


Amanda is continuously inspired by the students and families she works with, and each day she is reminded of what is possible when students are given the opportunity to take an active role in their education. Also a certified yoga teacher, Amanda finds ways to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into programming at The Academy, further connecting with her colleagues and students.

Robyn McCloud-Springer

Head of School

Chiaravalle Montessori

425 Dempster Street
Evanston, IL 60201-4706


Robyn has been Head of School since 2013 where she has experienced the joy and responsibilities of serving Chiaravalle in many different capacities. Since arriving as a Lower Elementary Teacher in 1997, she has been the K-8 Program Director, Assistant Head of School, and a parent.


She earned a BA in English at the University of Arizona, an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, AMS Elementary 1 Certification, and Nonprofit Management Certification from Northwestern University.


Robyn is passionate about fostering more peaceful, responsible, and healthy students who positively impact their human family and environment.

David Muniz

Director of Technology

Lake Forest Country Day School

145 S. Green Bay Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045-3053


David grew up on a steady dose of 80’s television shows, DOS 3.0, Windows 3.1, BBS, free Prodigy and AOL hours, flashlight tag, Alfred’s Fantastic Familiar Folk Songs, Souza, Wagner, Mozart, the Cure, Depeche Mode, NIN, soccer in a football school, the only brown boy in the room of “smart kids,” and a feeling that he could be and do more.


Before coming to education, he spent 8 years teaching musicians and artists how to be creative with technology. As a teacher, he is most emotional when students have a chance to engage in their passions, especially as they are discovering them. “I see them as colleagues as we learn and grow together. As an administrator, I see my work as two classrooms. One where I am the teacher, and the faculty and community are my students, as I facilitate their growth and development. In the second classroom, I am the student, learning from, while serving the needs of, the teachers and the larger community.”


David holds a BFA in Digital Design from AIU, an MEd in Educational Technology from the University of Missouri, and an MEd in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. 

Renee Ruffing

Associate Head of School

Beacon Academy

1574 Sherman Avenue
Evanston, Illinois 60201


Renée earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Appalachian State University, moving to Chicago soon after. Her professional background is in large-scale special event production, sales, management, and fundraising.


She joined Beacon in 2014 after eleven years at Francis W. Parker School where she served as the Director of Development.


Renée grew up experiencing the world in a military family that traveled frequently. She loves the outdoors, great food, rowing, and traveling. Renée lives in Wilmette with her wife, son, and dog Bey.

Priyanka Rupani

Assistant Principal

Francis W. Parker School

222 W. Webster Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614-3820


Priyanka Rupani is the Assistant Principal at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. Prior to working at Parker, Priyanka served as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where she is an alum. Previously, she served as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice at the Friends School of Baltimore.


Priyanka completed her B.A. from Northwestern University and her M.S. Ed from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught math and African-American history to high schoolers and was a member of the 2010 Teach for America Corps in Philadelphia.


Priyanka is also a faculty member for the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference and a Principal Consultant for the Glasgow Group. Through this work, she consults on topics of DEI and education for organizations nationwide.

Elizabeth Shutters

Director of Curriculum and innovation

Roycemore School

1200 Davis Street
Evanston, IL 60201


Beth has held various teaching and administrative roles at Roycemore since 2006 when she started as the Technology Coordinator. In addition to her current position as an administrator, Beth coordinates Roycemore’s signature learning programs, the Upper School January Short Term and Middle School Personal Passion Project. Prior to Roycemore, Beth served as a math teacher for Chicago Public Schools. Beth enjoys teaching and presenting about design thinking, passion projects, and effective professional development. She also presents at local and regional educational technology conferences and eis a Google Certified Trainer. She especially enjoys exploring innovation and instilling a love of lifelong learning in students and teachers.

Dr. Sally Sharp

Executive Director

Former Head of Student Life

Sacred Heart Schools


Sally is a product of independent school education, having graduated from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Education from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Education from The University of Georgia, after her undergraduate degree at Davidson College in Art History, Criticism, and Conservation.


Sally spent 20 years in college administration, having worked at Bridgewater College, Miami University, and the University of Michigan.


She then moved to the independent school world of work at Sacred Heart Schools as Head of Student Life. After 15 years at Sacred Heart Schools, she has retired and is a member-at-large on the LMAIS Board of Directors.


Among her many areas of interest are access to and building co-curricular programs to support the development of young people.